A midlife career change is serious business, but translation isn’t all cold and somber. I’m currently reading Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation by Douglas Robinson. The book thoughtfully presents 11 theses related to the theoretical processes of translation—useful, but not light reading. However, in the midst of a discussion of abductive reasoning Robinson tosses some linguistic brain candy our way in the form mistranslations. Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
Here are a few of the gems found on page 101. Enjoy!
On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.”
On the door of a Moscow hotel room: “If this is your first visit to Russia, you are welcome to it.”
In the office of a Roman doctor: “Specialist in women and other diseases.”
From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo: “When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”
What’s the funniest (or most catastrophic) mistranslation that you’ve come across?